Digital books provide a way for young children to interact with the book through touch or gentle taps on the screen of a computer or mobile device, such as an iPad. Digital books may be created specifically for reading digitally or may be an adaptation of a print book. Either way, digital books are finding their way into the hands and hearts of young readers.

“A Present for Milo” by Mike Austin, 2010, Ruckus Media Group. Ages 2-5.

Milo the cat chases a mouse through the house, under the sofa, and up the stairs. The simple text of this story is read aloud, and young readers or listeners can tap on items around the house and will be surprised with an action and sound effect. Created as a digital book, “A Present for Milo” makes reading and listening to a story interactive and fun for young children.

“The Magic School Bus: Oceans” based on the book by Joanna Cole & Bruce Degen, 2010, Scholastic. Ages 4-8.

Readers will likely be familiar with Mrs. Frizzle and the Magic School Bus series, published in print. This digital book takes the traditional book and transforms it into an ocean learning experience. Pages from the print book are replicated and read aloud. Interspersed, the reader will find various elements which, when tapped, reveal more information through a narrated diagram, a spoken comment, or a video clip. Readers will engage in an active reading experience, as information is shared in a variety of ways.

“The Monster at the End of This Book” by Jon Stone, Illustrated by Michael Smollin, 2012, Sesame Street and Calloway Digital Arts. Ages 2-5.

First published in print in 1971, this book features Sesame Street’s beloved Grover as he conquers his fear of monsters. Grover reads the story aloud and gives suggestions to encourage interaction with young readers. In both versions of the book, Grover tries in various ways to keep readers from turning the page and getting closer to the monster at the end of the book. In the digital version, Grover and the visual elements actually respond to readers touches and taps on the page. For example, a reader can tickle Grover’s stomach and he will laugh. When I shared this book with my family, the 29 year old who loved the print book as a child, was enamored with the digital version as an adult.

“Cinderella” published by Nosy Crow, 2011. Ages 3-8.

The traditional tale is virtually brought to life in the digital book of “Cinderella”, which has received five national awards as a top children’s app. Background music and moving scenery set the stage for the story. With a tap, various characters add details, emotion, or humor, also providing directions for the reader to move various objects on the screen. By interacting with the text in this way, readers help to create the scene, and young children especially, feel like they are a part of Cinderella’s world.

Being a print book lover myself, I am learning about the amazing interactive features of digital books, and the ways these features can motivate children to read. I am discovering that digital and print books can and do coexist.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Dobler

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